Friday, December 30, 2011

Boundaries and the Mills Brothers and Keeping Your Mouth Shut

Recently, someone said something to me that she shouldn’t have said.  It was a terrible thing to say.  I will never be able to get it out of my head.

I am so angry.  Now I am stuck knowing something I don’t want to know.

I get my feelings hurt easily.  I obsess over things that other people hardly notice.  It makes me leery about hanging out with people I don’t know very well.  I never know if they’re going to toss off some comment that will have me stewing for days.

Of course, this person isn’t a friend or an acquaintance.  She is my mother, and she is almost ninety-two, and she may or may not be suffering from some sort of dementia.  So I have to pretend I’m not angry and be all sweet and forgiving and good-daughterly about the whole thing.

It’s hard.

Words are powerful.  You can say you’re sorry, but you can’t unsay something. 

Part of what has always attracted me to the act of writing things down is a sense of the huge power of words, which is both wonderful and terrible all at once.  I love that words matter so much.  Writing well is a kind of hyper-carefulness.  I may not have the cleanest grout on the block, but I’m persnickety about words I put my name to.

As I’m writing, I’m listening to Pandora, and the Mills Brothers’ song “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” just came on.  (Really.  I swear to God.  Another thing I love about writing: if I pay attention, I can hear the Universe talking to me.)  One of the lines: “It’s better not to talk at all, is my advice.”


Monday, December 19, 2011

Black Turtlenecks and What's Really Important

I’ve been thinking a lot about clothes, which has made me think about age, which has made me think about writing.

I love clothes, even though I’ve mostly worn jeans and black turtlenecks and boots for years.  I love shopping and looking at street-style blogs and watching “Project Runway” and talking about clothes with my daughter, who has a wonderful sense of style.  I don’t purport to know anything about clothes, but I know what I like.

Recently, I’ve come to the realization that fifty-four is a rough age to be when you love clothes.  I wear the same size I’ve worn for almost twenty years, but things don’t look the same.  Or rather, they do, but I don’t feel the same way in them. 

I’ve had to modify the black-turtleneck thing, for one.  When I was thirty, black turtlenecks made me feel all writer-y.  Now they just look gloomy and unimaginative.  So I pair them with blouses and tunics and sweaters and jackets.   Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I have the horrible feeling that I’m wearing clothes my daughter should be wearing.  But I’m not quite a Chico’s or Eileen Fisher kind of gal, either.

Ines de la Fressange is arguably the most beautiful fifty-four-year-old alive.  (Google her.  You’ll see.)  A French model turned fashion icon, she has written a lovely guide to style called PARISIAN CHIC.  In it, she gives much light-hearted, soothing advice to middle-aged women about how to dress their age fashionably.   

I devoured her book and then spent a few days thinking obsessively about how I could follow her dictates without actually moving to Paris.  I went through my closet and tagged some skirts for my daughter.  I surfed a few websites.   I bought a few things.

And then, two nights ago, as I lay awake at three in the morning thinking about whether I would put on blue or black jeans in the morning, it suddenly hit me that I had to stop thinking about clothes immediately, because 1) there is not enough haute couture on the planet to make me look like Ines de la Fressange, and 2) I am a fifty-four-year-old writer, and what I should be thinking about is what is really important to me, which is writing.

So that is what I did.

I was asleep in seven minutes.